Feb 3, 2017

Trump may be ducking law with closed-door meetings

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

Government ethics advocates are raising concerns that Trump is blatantly dodging the Federal Advisory Committee Act, a 45-year-old law that requires advisory committee meetings — where influential business leaders are expected to give advice or recommendations to a President or agency — to be open the public.

Why it matters: This is the rule that initially caused Obama's similar CEO council to hold its meetings publicly. It's also the one that got Dick Cheney and his Energy Task Force in trouble. The point of the FACA law is to prevent special interests from having outsized sway in private meetings.

"I think the White House is skirting the law," Norm Eisen, former Obama ethics chair and Chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told Axios. "If they're having meetings that are subject to FACA, or even close, they should follow the rules."

Beyond today's meeting: The group filed a complaint with the White House this week taking issue with Trump's use of an advisory committee to get advice on potential Supreme Court justice nominations. "The public is entitled to know how the committee conducted its business and the recommendations it provided the president," the complaint says.

Possible pattern: Watchdogs worry Trump is purposefully naming and structuring his groups in ways that allow him to avoid the rules. For example, the administration last week announced a "manufacturing jobs initiative" including more than two dozen CEOs and labor leaders. The announcement included a disclaimer: No consensus advice or recommendations resulting from group deliberations or interaction is expected or will be solicited. That language suggests officials are well-aware of the legal requirements around these kinds of meetings, Eisen said.

What they're saying: A White House official told Politico that the groups have been structured and named "to ensure everything we have done...is fully compliant with all laws, including FACA."

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 652,079 — Total deaths: 30,438 — Total recoveries: 137,319.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 116,505 — Total deaths: 1,925 — Total recoveries: 921.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump is considering a quarantine on New York, parts of New Jersey and Connecticut. He signed a $2 trillion stimulus bill to give businesses and U.S. workers financial relief.
  4. State updates: Alaska is latest state to issue a stay-at-home order — New York is trying to nearly triple its hospital capacity in less than a month and has moved its presidential primary to June 23. Some Midwestern swing voters that supported Trump's handling of the virus less than two weeks ago are now balking at his call for the U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter.
  5. World updates: In Spain, over 1,400 people were confirmed dead between Thursday to Saturday.
  6. 🚀 Space updates: OneWeb filed for bankruptcy amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  7. Hollywood: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have returned to U.S. after being treated for coronavirus.
  8. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Infant dies after testing positive for coronavirus in Chicago

Hospital staff working inside a COVID-19 screening tent in Chicago on March 26. Photo: Jim Vondruska/NurPhoto via Getty Images

An infant less than one year old died in Chicago, Illinois after testing positive for the novel coronavirus, the state health department said on Saturday.

Why it matters: The death would mark the first reported infant mortality from COVID-19 in the U.S. The fatality rate for the novel coronavirus in the U.S. is highest among those over 85 years old, per the CDC.

Go deeperArrow38 mins ago - Health

Trump weighs quarantine of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

President Trump said on Saturday he is considering a "short term" quarantine of New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut — states that have already taken steps to quarantine residents and promote social distancing.

The big picture: With 112,000 people infected, the U.S. has the most COVID-19 cases in the world, exceeding China and Italy, per data from Johns Hopkins. A second wave of American cities, including Boston, Detroit, New Orleans and Philadelphia, are reporting influxes of cases.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 56 mins ago - Health